Comox Valley looks to find Puntledge-Black Creek school trustee

With chief electoral officer appointed, vote could possibly happen in early December

Voters in part of the Comox Valley can expect to go to the polls later this year to fill a vacant position on the School District 71 board.

With trustee and board chair Ian Hargreaves’ resignation last month, the board faced the prospect of finding a new board member to represent the Puntledge-Black Creek area.

“We look forward to having some good candidates step up for the area,” new board chair Sheila McDonnell said.

However, before finding a new trustee, the district had to find someone to oversee the electoral process. The process of calling the byelection can get underway with the selection of a chief election officer once they have sworn their oath.

“It was quite an endeavour to find someone,” secretary-treasurer Nicole Bittante told the board during a special meeting held via Zoom on Sept. 29.

The school district had reached out to about six or seven people, either retired chief administrative officers or people who had run an election before, but most were unable or unwilling. One of the challenges is the fact there is also a provincial election this fall, which will also require people to oversee the electoral process.

“We were fortunate enough to find someone,” she said.

Clyde Woolman agreed to put his name forward for the position, and the board approved a motion to appoint him. Marlene Leach was also appointed deputy election officer.

At the last regular board meeting, held one week previous, Bittante updated the trustees on the process and what to expect this fall. A resignation automatically triggers a byelection, with districts having 30 days to appoint a chief election officer. The school district is also reviewing its election bylaw to consider any changes.

Once official, the chief election officer sets a voting day, which has to take place on a Saturday no later than 80 days after the officer is appointed. Early December is a likely time frame for the election date.

“There’s a number of steps that take place,” Bittante added.

RELATED STORY: Sheila McDonnell elected chair of Comox Valley Schools board

At that Sept. 22 meeting, trustee Janice Caton asked whether there was any possibility of trying to “piggy-back” the vote with the provincial election on Oct. 24, but Bittante said they were not able, even with sufficient time, as the byelection is considered a municipal election. School board elections can and do typically happen in conjunction with regular local government elections, but not with those for higher levels of government.

“We have to run our own election for this position,” she said.

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